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In November 1995 I flew out to join a ship in the Adriatic, to spend Christmas as their chaplain. We were looking forward to sailing into Valletta, Malta just a few days before Christmas, to join family and friends who had come to join loved one who had been on deployment in a war zone for more than 4 months.
Just a couple of weeks before Christmas, it was announced that a peace agreements had been signed. Peace was a cause for rejoicing, but the news that we would be stuck at sea for Christmas, maintaining that peace, was not. Faces grew longer by the day, and the whispers of “Christmas is cancelled” grew louder until the captain summoned me and told me that Christmas off. I told him that he might cancel all the festivities and allow people to be miserable, but I would be celebrating the fact that Christ was born. What a night as we gathered in the ships’ hangar, older men with tears in their eyes as they thought of their families far away, younger men and women, newly aware of the birth of the Prince of Peace, Protestants and Catholics and those of no defined beliefs, passing bread and wine and sharing in the news that Christ was right at the heart of all we did that Christmas morn.